Hey 3.5 readers.
BQB here. Is comedy dying? Maybe not, but I fear it might be on life support.
Let’s keep pondering the question, shall we?
In my last post on this topic, I mentioned “Airplane” as an example of a hilarious movie that wouldn’t get past the PC police today.
Here’s an example of a funny scene from that film:
So, in the 1970s (this film was made in 1980 when the 1970s were still fresh), there was a “jive” culture. Hip, happening black dudes would dress up in fancy, stylish outfits, hang out at discos and talk in a cool style.
In this scene, Barbara Billingsley, the actress who played literally the first TV sitcom mother ever, June Cleaver on “Leave it to Beaver” overhears one of the jive dudes talking to the stewardess. The stewardess can’t understand all of the hip lingo.
Babs, for some unexplained reason, does. She starts speaking this super cool jive talk. The jive dudes talk back and pretty soon they and the old gal are having a jive argument.
Why is this funny? First, it pokes fun at that jive culture, but only tangentially. If anything, it satirizes white people and old white women in particular. This old white woman, essentially America’s first sitcom Mom, goes out of her element and speaks in this hip language typically reserved for the cool, happening black club scene.
The joke is basically an old white lady could never be that cool but here she is, being cool, out jiving the jive talkers. Laughs often come when we are shown the absurd, the unlikely, the thing we’ve never seen before.
It’s a funny scene. Would it fly today? No. Why? Some Hollywood suit would see two black guys, assume they are being made fun of, assume that people are too stupid to get the joke as anything other than ridicule of black people (and sadly, many people are that stupid) and cut the joke.
Let me ask you this. When you see these dudes talking jive, is your reaction to dislike them? To think that something is wrong with them? No. Me, personally? I kind of envy them. They look like they led interesting lives, hanging out in busy city nightclubs, absorbing the music, the culture, learning a hip way to talk.
I regret that I’m more like the stewardess, too lame to understand what they are saying because I’ve never lived it up like they did. Or worse, I’m like Babs, so old and uncool that people would laugh if I ever showed a hip bone in my body because it would be so surprising to people.
But there’s just no nuance anymore. No attempt to understand intent. It’s just, “Oh no. A black person is involved in this joke. We must cut it. If literally one person can infer that black people are being made fun of, it’s one too many.”
I dunno. Am I right? Am I wrong? Hit me up on the flip side, 3.5 bloods.